Artists

back
Petr Štembera

Petr Štembera is among the key Czech performance artists of the 1970s. He was one of the leading figures of the Prague body art circle and from 1970 mediated contact with important performance art representatives both in the West and in Eastern Bloc countries.

In the early 1970s, Štembera’s interest in extreme physical and psychological experiences led to extreme body art pieces that he began to document in the manner customary in American body art: a black-and-white photography with a short description – a report on when and where it happened. Štembera’s first performances took place in nature and a number of later pieces dealt with the relationship between the human body and a natural entity, such as Štěpování (Grafting) (1975) when Štembera grafted a bush sprig into his arm in a way common in arboriculture, or in Spaní na stomě (Sleeping in a tree) (1975) when, after three sleepless nights, he spent the fourth night in a tree.

Štembera’s early work is still in the artist’s self-searching phase and only arose within the closed circle of his fellow-artists Karel Miler and Jan Mlčoch. Only later did Štembera’s body as a subject of inner experience become for him an object and instrument at the same time.  This is very apparent from the time when the Prague body-art trio conducted their performances before small audiences. It was at these “evening performances" secretly held at various places that Štembera conducted a number of extreme body art performances in which he exposed his body and sometimes even the viewers to danger. Štembera’s courage supplemented by skills learned from yoga enabled him to undertake very demanding performances. Their excruciating nature and symbolism strongly resonated with the “normalization” years in Czechoslovakia following the Soviet occupation.

Like Karel Miler and Jan Mlčoch, Štembera decided to stop his performance activities in the late 1970s. This was due to a feeling of exhaustion, but also a feeling of awkwardness to carry out artificially risky acts in light of the real perils faced by those involved in the Charter 77. Štembera’s interest in other psychophysical activities, such as oriental martial arts, also played a role.

 

P.M.

1945, Plzeň / CZ, at that time ČSSR

 

Please follow this link for a selected bibliography available at the ERSTE Foundation Library
Media File
Works
Browse All